By Charlie Kimber
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International round up: Stronger strikes can end France stalemate

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Issue 2688
Dump the pensions bill, say strikers in France
“Dump the pensions bill,” say strikers in France (Pic: FO)

The revolt in France against attacks on pensions has reached a critical moment.

Millions of people continue to be involved intermittently in strikes and protests. But the indefinite strikes are not spreading.

President Emmanuel Macron hopes he can persuade enough union leaders to call off action, isolate the most militant strikers, and force through the core of his ­neoliberal assault.

Unsa union leaders last ­weekend called off an indefinite strike in Paris’s RATP public transport system that began on 5 December.

However indefinite strikes on the national rail continue. And large numbers of teachers, refinery workers, firefighters and health workers have been striking for a day or more.

More action was planned for this week. Nine union federations and student organisations called jointly for support for local strikes on Wednesday, strikes and “torchlight events” on Thursday and national strikes and demonstrations on Friday.

Friday is the day the council of ministers will consider the ­government’s pension proposals.

Last week saw impressive mobilisations. According to the CGT union federation, nearly 250,000 people marched in Paris last Thursday. And strikers and Yellow Vests marched together in their thousands on Saturday.


Strikes have spread to French ports, causing delays to ferry services to Britain. And last ­Thursday vessels set to export a total of 536,000 tons of cereals, mostly wheat, were held up outside the ports.

Unions called for a 72-hour ports strike this week and a “dead ports” strategy of closing down operations. There are large pickets at the seven major seaports.

How they fight back in France
How they fight back in France
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The port strikes have led to ­shortages in supermarkets in France’s “overseas territories” such as Martinique.

Last Saturday in Marseille, sailors and striking workers at Fluxel—the company responsible for the ­loading and unloading of tankers—blocked access to the depot with heavy goods vehicles.

Teachers have also been taking action. Last Wednesday they occupied the Paris Rectorate—the ­education department.

The Rectorate of Rouen was also blocked while protests also took place in Versailles, Lille, Reims and Montpellier.

Last Friday striking workers and their supporters burst into the Bouffes du Nord theatre in Paris where Macron was viewing a performance.

They shouted, “Macron resign,” and, “General strike,” before being removed by police.

Despite concessions on details, the government is not moving ­substantially. And union leaders have not called the all-out general strike that’s needed to win.

Strikers have to continue ­building pressure on their leaders, and deepen rank and file coordination to call action if their leaders won’t.

Thousands join anti-regime protests in Iran 

Protests continued in Iran last week after the regime admitted to downing a Ukranian passenger plane, killing 170 people.

The protests—mostly centred around universities—spread after thousands of people demonstrated in Tehran.

The regime at first denied responsibility for downing the aircraft, but later admitted the plane was hit by an Iranian anti-aircraft missile.

Earlier that evening Iran had launched missile strikes on US air bases in Iraq in retaliation for the assassination of top general Qassem Soleimani.

Politicians in the West pretend to support the protesters. And many English-language media reports portray the protests as pro-West.

Yet many protesters also know that the US is responsible for devastating sanctions that ruin the lives of ordinary Iranian people.

And they know association with the West, and Western intervention, undermines their protests.

They are an example that it is possible for Iranians to challenge their own rulers without necessarily siding with the US.


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